cover image You're Mean, Lily Jean!

You're Mean, Lily Jean!

Frieda Wishinsky, illus. by Kady MacDonald Denton, Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-9476-6

Carly and her older sister, Sandy, are stalwart playmates—until glamorous Lily Jean moves in next door. She has cool talents ("I can play the xylophone and drums"), she's stylish (wearing "shiny red shoes and a puffy red skirt"), and she's supremely self-possessed. Sandy caves in the face of the newcomer's charisma and, with only the faintest complaints, allows Lily Jean to relegate Carly to the least desirable roles in pretend play: baby, cow, and dog ("Dogs under the table," Lily Jean declares). It's only when Carly stands up for herself that Lily Jean's regime is toppled. Writing mostly in dialogue, Wishinsky (Where Are You, Bear?) brings a welcome reportorial cool to the bullying story; her willingness to avoid obvious cues to readers makes Carly's predicament all the more poignant and Sandy's capitulation feel worse than outright rejection. Denton's (A Bedtime for Bear) watercolors exude her customary balletic grace (few illustrators can make an extended arm or crooked wrist look so eloquent), and her light touch becomes a thread of reassurance for readers to follow until order and fairness are restored. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)